This has been one of my favourite pickle/thokku recipes. Some days back I tasted a leading brand of Pavkkai /Bittermelon Thokku and I nearly emptied the bottle in 2 days, by having it with just about everything. It was that delicious, being a pavakkai fan I simply flipped for it and had to try it immediately at home.
My mom had always served bitter gourds in various dishes and we got to like them. Unfortunately many people stay away from it as it has the bitter feeling with an after taste.Fortunately this thokku recipe has no such taste and any bitterness is just a hint and infused with so many flavors of the spices and the long cooking of the sauce, you will not get the taste.
Although, the bitterness of this gourd might turn some people away from it, in-fact, it can really sweeten your health because of its disease preventing and health promoting phyto chemical compounds.
Now to the recipe which has me fixated.
2 cups finely sliced or chopped bitter-gourds, after removing the seeds.
1 lime size tamrind, soaked in warm water for easy extraction of tamrind liquid.
Rock salt, powdered as required.
3 tsp chilli powder ( mild spice ) or Kashmiri chili powder.
A generous pinch of asafoetida powder, or the rock form, soaked in warm water or powdered.
2 tbsp powdered jaggery
Pinch of turmeric powder
To roast and grind to powder.
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds.
1/2 tsp Chana dal
1/2 cup washed curry leaves.
2 tbsp peanuts ( optional )
1/2 cup sesame oil ( recommended )
Finely chop the bitter-gourd to small pieces.
In a vessel boil some water very well. Switch off the gas , add the chopped bitter gourd pieces, add some salt . Cover the vessel for 15 minutes.
Drain well the bitter gourds pieces from the hot water and keep in colander to drain completely. This removes almost all the bitterness.
In a big heavy bottomed pan, add some oil after the pan is heated.
Splutter the mustard seeds, add the chana dal, add curry leaves, lower the flame.Roast the peanuts to golden .
Add the chopped bitter gourds, which you have blanched and drained.
Add the turmeric powder, salt, extracted tamarind water around 2 cups or till it covers the bitter gourds.
Add the asafoetida powder, chilli powder.
Let the bitter gourds now start cooking on a medium flame, and let the tamarind sauce thicken.
Meanwhile roast and powder mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds .Keep aside.
When the thokku/pickle starts reducing gradually, appearing like a shiny gel like, with the bitter gourds cooked very smooth, mash a little with the ladle but no too much. We need some chunks of bittergourds.
When the entire mixture is almost getting reduced to a thicker consistency, check for all the spice and salt taste, make adjustments, add the roasted powder, mix well, add the jaggery powder, keep mixing.
The thokku/ pickle should not have any watery liquid, but thickened sauce like texture, with oil coming up, add any remaining oil and keep stirring as the last stage it might get burnt. Switch off the flame and let the pickle/thokku get cooled completely before you store in a clean dry bottle.
This is a delicious mixture of sweet, spicy , tangy taste of thokku / pickle which can be mixed with rice and eaten.
Surprisingly the bitter taste will not remain much , just pleasant hints of it and that is what makes this thokku so appealing.
Tip..You can also deep fry the chopped bitter gourds and then add them to the tamrind sauce for reducing to pickle like consistency.
Some info about Bitter gourds ( sourced from Internet )
The vegetable is very low in calories, providing just 17 calories per 100g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich in phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Bitter melon notably contains phyto-nutrient, polypeptide-P; a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. In addition, it composes hypoglycemic agent called charantin. Charantin increases glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in the cells of liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Together, these compounds are thought to be responsible for reduction of blood sugar levels in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
Fresh pods are an excellent source of folates, contain about 72 µg/100g (Provides 18% of RDA). Folate helps reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the newborns when taken by mothers during early pregnancy.
Fresh bitter melon is an excellent source of vitamin-C (100 g of raw pod provides 84 mg or about 140% of RDI). Vitamin-C, one of the powerful natural antioxidants, helps the body scavenge deleterious free radicals one of the reasons for cancer development.
It is an excellent source of health benefiting flavonoids such as ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin. It also contains a good amount of vitamin A. Together; these compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease processes.
Bitter melon stimulates easy digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel until it is excreted from the body. Thus, helps in relieving indigestion and constipation problems.
In addition, the vegetable is an also good source of niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and magnesium.
Early laboratory tests suggest that compounds in bitter melon might be effective for treating HIV infection.